122 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TRULY A "MASTERPIECE"
I don't know how anyone could read this book and not give it a five star rating. The true test for me of a "great book" is one that stays with me -- one I can't stop thinking about long after I've finished. I read this book for the second time in my life a month ago (first time was in high school many years ago), and I'm still haunted by the suffering endured by the Joad...
Published on 18 Mar. 2003 by TheReader23
3.0 out of 5 stars classic but hard work
Very graphic account of hardship that thankfully is less common in the west at least. Overly long and a ramble. No real conclusion but i guess thats left to the reader. Much preferred of mice and men and cannery row
Published 11 months ago by Mark Payne
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122 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TRULY A "MASTERPIECE",
I don't know how anyone could read this book and not give it a five star rating. The true test for me of a "great book" is one that stays with me -- one I can't stop thinking about long after I've finished. I read this book for the second time in my life a month ago (first time was in high school many years ago), and I'm still haunted by the suffering endured by the Joad family. The interesting thing is that Steinbeck wrote this book in 1939 at the height of the injustices being fraught upon the migrant workers in California. I'm sure it wasn't popular then as it brought to the forefront the corruption of some powerful people in America. It also spoke to the conscience of every American which eventually led to political reform in California. After reading this book, I did some research into Steinbeck's motivation and learned that he was haunted by the plight of California's migrant workers to the point of obsession. To fuel his anger, he would visit the migrant camps each day full of their dirt, disease and hungry people and then return home to write about those people responsible for these conditions -- people he considered to be murderers.
Steinbeck concentrated on the circumstances of one family, The Joads, tenant farmers in Oklahoma until they were forced out by the larger companies who wanted their land back. With dreams of luscious grapes and peaches in abundance waiting to be picked, they loaded up their belongings and began their journey on Route 66 headed for Bakersfield, California. They began their trip with a bevy of colorful characters led by Ma and Pa Joad. It's amazing how much power Steinbeck gave to Ma Joad -- years before women had any right to a voice. Unfortunately, just as the Joads were heading out, so were thousands upon thousands of other families. This would ultimately lead to supply and demand. There would be too many workers for the few jobs available and, consequently, people would be agreeing to work for peanuts just to be able to feed their families.
Steinbeck's writing is astounding as the unrest of the migrants builds to a crescendo and just as the dust has risen in Oklahoma, so will the voices of the poor migrant workers. Steinbeck says, "In the eyes of the hungry, there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are growing heavy." It is just a matter of time before their wrath is unleashed and you can feel it in every page you turn. He says that, "Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won't all be poor. Pray God someday a kid can eat." I don't know how you can read some of his words and not get teary eyed. But sixty years have passed since the writing of this book and there are still migrant stories to be told and kids who have no food to eat yet sadly the world continues despite its injustices.
I won't kid you into believing that this is an easy book to read. The first 150 pages are so slow going that I almost had to put it down. But I kept on going just as the Joad's kept on going and I'm certainly glad I did. We could all take a lesson from their quest for survival and their quest just to be able to eat the next day. Their determination, in light of all the obstacles they had to face, is truly a lesson to be learned. You feel a sense of accomplishment after reading a book like this -- I know I did.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most relevant and poignant books of all time.,
This review is from: The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Modern Classics) (Hardcover)
Who am I to review one of the greatest literary works of all time? Could I possibly give this book anything less than the maximum rating it so richly deserves? Should I even commence? Those were just some of my private thoughts as I finally put down a copy of this book - read. This is the book which stirred the American conscience, caused political reform and brought about change when first published in 1939. This is the book which described how families were starving to death because of corruption. This is John Steinbeck at his exceptional best. For those people who never got around to reading this engaging and absorbing account of the Joad family, may I suggest you actually purchase a copy (any copy!) and finally read it.
Today the world is either in recession or emerging from the dark grip of this latest financial catastrophe. Whilst we may live in a time when millions of families are no longer allowed to starve to death - well, not in the developed world at any rate, I earnestly believe there are lessons to be learned from this book about the rich and powerful who care not for their fellow man but only for personal gain. More importantly, those lessons are as relevant today as they were in 1939.
Another similarity also failed to escape my notice; In this book we see how US police and other officials use their positions of authority to threaten and even blackmail the many thousands of American migrants who were simply looking for work in order to feed hungry mouths. These people had not arrived from any foreign country and were not even black - something which would have made their persecution much easier. No!, these ordinary white American folk were honest farmers who had been forcibly evicted from their homes and the land they had worked for generations. Seventy years on, here in the UK, we are besieged by TV programmes depicting our different police forces undertaking their various duties around the country. Yet more cheaply produced "reality" television! Significantly, however, I have occasionally noticed how some police officers deliberately provoke a hostile situation where none exists. Whilst not on the scale portrayed in this outstanding work, it is interesting that I should recognise that underlying attitude of arrogant superiority.
Whilst some may find the book slow going at the start, Steinbeck quickly gathers in those loose strands until they suddenly pull together to assume a story, reveal a mental photograph and produce a relevance into which the reader becomes fully immersed. I promptly learned local words and understood the dialect in which they were spoken as the Joad story unfolded. I could hear those southern accents as hardships are endured and explained through the actions of those who lived them. This was the organised, legalised daylight robbery and exploitation of the poor by the rich who were actively supported by the law enforcement agencies. A week's work for 1,000 fruit pickers paying 50 cents an hour is advertised to 3,000 hungry people who then pass on the message. Consequently, 5,000 starving workers arrive in search of that employment. With so much competition, the rate is lowered to 30 cents - take it or leave it! It was a deliberate ploy repeated time after time. Anyone attempting to organise his fellow workers is photographed, black-listed and branded a communist. Now feed that to your children. Then the banks insist the farmers reduced the rate to 25 cents and any landowner who questions that decision is swiftly reminded of his own vulnerability as a mortgagee! In short, either you pay them 25 cents or you join them! My own immediate reaction was to recognise a similarity between then and now - specifically with those modern banking practises which preyed on the sub-prime market. Anyone who cared to consider precisely what "sub-prime" meant, knew it was a policy destined to fail. And fail it did in spectacular fashion - and yet, the fat cat bankers still draw bonuses based on "personal performance" and not on their company's overall profit or loss...
I note from some of the comments appended to certain editions of this book, that various issues have been produced in which, apparently, Steinbeck's prose are changed to make the work an easier read. Please don't take the easy option, take the version written as it was intended to be read - i.e. the version written by Steinbeck. If not, you cannot claim to have read this book at all - instead you have the equivalent of, say, a Romeo and Juliet story - set in Manhattan in the 21st Century - and there are plenty of those...
In closing, I would urge anyone (indeed everyone) who has not already read an original version of this book, to go out and buy a copy - any old copy, and then simply read it. Having done that, you too will draw parallels with our modern age and understand what I mean. You will also be richer for having done so - as would those fat cats who, unfortunately, will probably never bother. Having finally finished reading this outstanding work, I wonder how many of you will still be wondering whatever happened to that perfectly matched pair of Bays! I do...
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a timeless human drama,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Grapes of Wrath (Hardcover)
This is one of my alltime favourite books, it combines very belivable and enjoyable charachters with a serious and tragic theme. It follows the fortunes of the Joad family as they migrate West in search of a better life. It also explores the rapid commercialisation of the West during the 20's as well as people like the Joads whom it left behind. Steinbeck breathes life into this case example family and I found myself with several favourite charachters, something I have not found in a book for a long time. Despite the poverty and sad theme of the book the strength of human spirit and hope emerges throughout the book. We can and should take lessons from this book, and the crude new greedy culture that is emerging during this novel is now ever too aparent in our society too. The introduction by Brad Leithauser is helpful for understanding the themes and background of the book, but I would not class it as esssential and it could of been explained in much more detail. If you enjoyed 'Of Mice and Men' you will love this, it is definitely Steinbecks masterpiece. All in all it is a very rewarding and un-put-downable book and I would recommend this book to everyone.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some may struggle to finish, it�s worth it though.,
I was seriously contemplating 5 stars for this book, but then as I got toward the end of it I was reminded how tough a book this can be to read at times. I don't mean it's full of difficult long words, or that the paragraph structure is such that the reader becomes dazed and confused. What I mean is that the subject matter can really grind you down, but that is what makes the book so impressive.
The Grapes of Wrath follows a migrant farm working family from the 1930's who, during the great depression, are forced to leave their home and their livelihood to seek a future in California. This in essence is the thread of the story but what the Grapes of Wrath does is it branches off to give a number of sub-stories which really give the reader a sense of what life was like for these migrant workers.
The book in interspliced with a number social commentaries on this time, which show how badly these people were thought of, and also shows how normal "god fearing" people can turn on their own people, scared that these outsiders will ruin their way of life. These moments though do not constitute the whole book and there are a variety of other stories (purely fictional) around the family and how they bond together, yet break apart as the journey slowly wears them down.
The greatness of the book is the timelessness of it. Steinbeck shows how people will turn on each other with the right provocation. In Grapes of Wrath it's the wealthy Californians, we can see this mimicked to a point in peoples attitudes to modern day asylum seekers. People fear what they don't understand and what they are scared of they attack.
A brilliantly written book but really does need perseverance.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a review of the audio book!,
This review is from: The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Classics) (Audio CD)
I think it is exceedingly unhelpful that Amazon aggregates all reviews of all kinds of different editions of a book, movie etc into a single group instead of differentiating between, say, a review of the printed book and a review of the audio book (or a review of some substandard DVD and a Criterion Collection edition of the same movie). The way they do it now you have to sieve through more than 150 reviews to find one dealing with the edition you are contemplating buying, a total waste of time. Anyway, this review is about the audio book edition of "The Grapes of Wrath", read by Dylan Baker. And what a masterful job he does, bringing each character to life by modifying his tone of voice, accent, speed of reading etc. The book is of course a classic and there's no need to comment on it as such, thousands of pages have been written about it, but if you want to have that extra bit of enjoyment that turns a classic into a thrillingly fresh experience you should buy these CDs.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Storm,
This review is from: The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck "Essentials") (Kindle Edition)
The Grapes of Wrath is the story of the Joad family, who having been settled on their farm for three generations, are moved off their land by foreclosure forced upon them by a far away bank. The family take to the road joining thousands of other migrants all heading to California in the vague hopes of work in the fruit picking industry. It is the story of a collapsing economy and although there are many losers, there are some winners as well such as the used car dealer doing brisk business selling clapped out flivvers at inflated prices to fleeing families making the long journey west.
The migrant families are treated with contempt everywhere they go. The owners of roadside restaurants and gas stations, who are themselves being dragged under by lack of trade, despise them for using their facilities and yet buying little. There are friendships formed on the road and a sense of belonging and comradeship is found in one of the government camps but behind it all is a terrible sense of hopelessness and futility.
Steinbeck has some serious political points to make in this book about the near collapse of society following Wall Street Crash and he seems to be very much in favour of 'New Deal' style interventions. However the strength of the characterisation and the quality of the writing make it a great work of art above politics. The book also has a very memorable ending, sad but also life affirming.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steinbeck at his very best,
By A Customer
After reading this book, you understand why it is that Steinbeck received the nobel prize for literature. 'The Grapes of Wrath' is in its own league- a novel written by a true genius.
Set in California, it follows the misfortunes of the Joad family, who like many others have given up their lives in Oklahoma in search of work in California. It follows both their hopes and setbacks creating a moving account of the American dream of the 1930's, as we witness their struggle to make ends meet.
It is Steinbeck's use of descriptive language and his understanding of the power of the human spirit that brings these characters to life. We not only follow the Joad family in their struggle, but everyone who has ever experienced the struggles of 1930's America.
After having read this book, I now have an answer for the commonly asked question, "What's your favourite novel?"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true American classic,
This serious master-piece has its setting during the "Great Depression" and gives a general view of the 1930's. John Steinbeck who may be the greatest chronicler of this cataclysm wrote this The Grapes of Wrath which is about the struggles of the poor during this time. In the story, the Joad family endures many struggles on their way to find work in California and their lives are a microcosm of struggles of the poor during this time. Like thousands of other families, they encounter hunger, violence, betrayals, setbacks and despair. Yet the Joads maintained dignity, courage, and hope to recover. America was fortunate in that the poor did maintain these virtues which kept their hopes alive and made them not to rebel and throw the nation into anarchy. The nation was also lucky with the ascension to power of Roosevelt. The Grapes of Wrath shows how a people with hope and a leadership committed to its people can overcome disaster to become strong again.It reads in so many ways like Disciples of Fortune and the writing flows in an effortless manner. The Grapes of Wrath a true American Classic is one of the most outstanding books that I have ever read. It does not fail to leaves its mark on a reader.
38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HEARTWRENCHING......NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED,
At first when I started out, wasn't too sure I would want to continue. This book is written in local dialect which I thought would be tedious but I was in for a surprise for it was not. After a while I began to love the dialect as much as I loved this book to tell the truth. No wonder John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for this work.
The Grapes of Wrath centres on the Joads; a Dustbowl family from Oklahoma whose land was confiscated from them, along with others in the Midwestern states. All these families head for California where it is understood that there is lots of opportunity in that golden state to start again. This being in immigrant work or farm labour in grape, pear and peach reaping.The trek is long but it's supposed to be well worth it with expectant good wages. and somewhere decent to live, somewhere to call home.
Meet the Joad family of Ma Joad; a good Christian woman and as the strength and spine of the family, she holds a tight reign on the entire bunch of them retaining their team spirit, and keeping the morale alive amongst them. Then there is Casey a sometimes preacher man; Tom Joad her eldest son who is driven and afraid of nobody, but just anxious to get out to California; his brother Noah, a man consumed in quiet moments, and little to say; Al the brother who drives the loaded down truck from Oklahoma, out to the West; Uncle John a restless soul, but who can blame him! These along with Pa Joad the Joad sister Rose of Sharon, and the young ones Ruthie and Winfield they make up the exodus. An exodus like none ever seen, we share in each heartache and disappointment as well as their hopefulness which Ma stokes daily. As the Joad turn from farmers in their own right to immigrant workers, it gets harder for the family to retain their dignity. The reader will find himself living through these characters lives, and experiencing gratefulness for the little things which are so often taken for granted day in and day out.
I would love to encourage anyone interested in good literature, to get your hands on this powerful book soon. It certainly encouraged me to look at life differently.
January 10th, 2003
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars every once in a while.........,
By A Customer
..you read something which simply grabs hold of you and will not let you go. It is 3 months since I finished this book and it can only be described as truly an epic. Steinbeck's ambition is immense - the landscapes and horizons for the Joad family's fateful journey are vast and daunting.
Overall the story broke my heart - to think that such injustices and hardship prevailed for such numbers of people only 70-80years ago was astonishing. So much for "land of the free"!
I cried at the denouement - having wondered how it could end. Realising that there could naturally be no thought of a happy ending, I was genuinely shocked by what happened in the final pages, even though I feltI was beyond shock given the horrors I had already witnessed during the Joad's dignified but incessant decline.
Take some time and treat yourself to a true literary masterpiece. I feel genuinely rewarded having read this and it has opened my eyes to social injustice in America that Ic ould never have understood from a history book. I hope it has such an impact on you as well.
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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (Paperback - 27 Oct. 2011)